Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Carrera Audi R8 LMS – Model no. 27321

In 2009 Audi introduced the R8 LMS. Intended to be more than just another German supercar – it was also intended to be Audi's standard bearer in GT3 racing by way of factory supported privateers. While 2009 was intended to be a development year, this car quickly racked up victories in the ADAC, FIA, Italian, and Belgian GT3 series. That's 23 victories and 1 championship for a machine that's barely a year old.

Carrera brings us a model of the ADAC GT3 version of the R8 LMS as part of their Evolution line. Out of the box the silver and black ABT Sportsline Nurburgring livery looks stunning. This car sports the race number 100 in honour of Audi's 100th anniversary as a car maker. The lines on this model are all very crisp with no overspray and sharp tampo. Carrera have done a very good job of capturing the feel of the 1:1 car with this model. The presentation is helped by more finely rendered details: for example the wing supports aren't as chunky as what I'd normally expect from Carrera. Surprisingly this car is not fitted with lights.

Included with the car is an extra guide flag, set of mirrors, and braids – something all slot manufacturers should emulate. Unfortunately the shorter/thinner guide keel that is compatible with Scalextric Sport track is not included. No problem – I just pulled the long keel out of the Audi and replaced it with the 'Special' keel (part #85309) from a Carrera Capri in my collection. Carrera has done some work on their guide system offering approximately 160° of rotation which is quite an improvement over the approximately 90° offered by their previous setup. This guide is also self centering which makes for quick reslots after an off.

Under the hood Carrera has left lots of room on the chassis of the Audi R8 LMS courtesy of the pan interior and flat chassis. This is great for anyone who wants to convert the car to digital, or to non-magnet running as there's lots of room for either the chip or lead weight. It's nice to see brass bushings front and rear though there's significant play owing to the knurled axles used. One interesting feature I noticed in testing is the ability to bypass the direction switch courtesy of the modular electrical connections used between the switch, guide, and motor. The guide and motor connections can be hooked up directly and the now redundant switch can be easily removed by just removing 1 screw. While the switch only weighs 1g, it's removal does provide and excellent spot to place lead for non-magnet tuning.

On my 22m test track the Carrera Audi R8 LMS offered few surprises. The dual magnet design offers decent magnetic downforce (137g) without being overly stuck down. The car could be slid in the corners but overall was quite controllable. The stock plastic wheels proved to be fairly straight and true, and the stock rubber tires offered decent grip. Racers wanting to get more out of this car should consider gluing the tires to the rims as the fit was a bit loose.

The drivetrain did seem a little tight on my test car and I traced this to the pinion rubbing against the shoulder of the crown gear. I'm sure with some running this car will eventually break in, or with a bit of work the pinion could be pushed onto the motor shaft just a bit further allowing the rear axle to spin more freely. Even so, the Carrera Audi R8 LMS is in the zone with a few other current GT racers:

6.875s Scalextric Ford GT
6.992s Scalextric Aston Martin DBR9
7.255s Scalextric Maserati MC12
7.386s Scalextric Ferrari F430
7.435s Carrera Chevrolet Corvette C6R
7.436s NINCO Lamborghini Gallardo
7.529s NINCO Porsche 997
7.688s Carrera Audi R8 LMS
8.372s SCX Morgan Aero 8

The Carrera Audi R8 LMS performed respectably without the traction magnets in place lapping my test track in 10.6s. Magnets can be removed from the top side of the chassis though the body must be taken off to do so. Without traction magnets this car demonstrated no hop under power and could corner with predictability. Non-magnet performance was no doubt aided by the car's 100g overall weight as well as the wide range of rotation provided by the current guide design. Upgrading the factory tires to Super Tires 1410C silicone tires dramatically reduced the non-magnet lap time to 9.194s. Further gains in performance can most likely be realized by getting a slightly looser fit between the pinion and crown gear, adding lead ballast, reducing play in the axle bushings, and by gluing the tires to the rims and truing them.

Racers counting on out of the box magnet-car performance will not be disappointed. The car can be made competitive with only minor modifications. Those who prefer running their cars without magnets have a good platform to work with though will have to look at reducing this car's overall weight to make it competitive.

Thank-you to Carrera USA for the opportunity to test this car, Slot Car Corner Canada for the chance to evaluate a set of Super Tires, and to Mini Grid in Toronto for the use of their track.

-Van LaPointe

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